Washington State University’s leaders remember Paul G. Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft, philanthrophist and community builder, for his contributions to the university and to improving human health worldwide.
Allen died Oct. 15 of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was 65.
In 2010, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation donated $26 million to help create the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health at WSU. The Allen School is unique among other global health programs because it focuses on the health of animals as a way to improve the health of people and the environment.
Guy Palmer, founding director of the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health and now senior director of global animal health for WSU, presented the concept to Allen in 2010. The project combined three areas of interest for Allen — his connection to the university, his passion for science and his connection to communities in eastern and southern Africa, Palmer told the Capital Press.
“It was a coming together of those three things in a fairly unique way that would be very difficult to replicate,” Palmer said.
The school would provide updates regularly of their activities to Allen and his staff.
“It’s not like he wrote a check and then walked away from it,” Palmer said. “He really remained very interested in the progress of it.”
For example, the school examined what happens when rural livestock owners incorporated vaccines into their animals’ production. They produced more milk, Palmer said, but the household income from the higher productivity translated directly into increased expenditures for girls’ education.
“He just loved that,” Palmer said of Allen. “This was the resource those individuals had and how they translated that into these broader societal gains was what really interested him.”
WSU and Allen were working on develop Rabies Free Africa, a program to eliminate human deaths due to rabies on the continent in 12 years. About 30,000 deaths each year are due to rabies. Half of the victims are children, Palmer said, calling the deaths “completely preventable.”
The program includes vaccinating dogs and providing medical access to victims.
“Paul Allen was a man of great compassion and vision,” WSU President Kirk Schulz said in a press release. “He understood the power of philanthropy to improve the human condition in this country and around the world.”
“We are extremely saddened to hear of the loss of our friend and legendary donor to Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, Paul Allen,” said Bryan Slinker, dean of WSU’s veterinary college, in the press release. “We extend our greatest sympathies to his family and friends both here and abroad.”
Some people might see the school being named after Allen through an “egotistical” lens, Palmer said, but nothing could be further from the truth. The university can recruit more faculty because of Allen’s name on the school, he said.
“It also carries his name forward, and we’re delighted that that will happen,” he said.